Mike Hughes 2018 NFL Draft Profile

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Mike Hughes
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: UCF Knights defensive back Mike Hughes (19) returns a kick during the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl football game of the UCF Knights v Auburn Tigers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. The UCF Knights won the game 34-27. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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Overview
Position: Cornerback
Height: 5’10”
Weight: 189 pounds
School: UCF Knights

Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash: 4.53 seconds
Bench press: 20 reps
Vertical jump: 35.5 inches
20-yard shuttle: 4.13 seconds
Broad jump: 10 feet, 7 inches

Mike Hughes 2018 NFL Draft Profile

It’s not often that a player reaches “journeyman” status before he even dons the NFL shield, yet Mike Hughes found a way. The incoming defensive back has played three seasons of college ball, each at a different school. His current state of readiness to cover NFL pass-catchers is somewhat in doubt. Hughes is a skilled player who has proven as much on the field, but his lack of refinement makes him a consensus raw talent.

It was clear during his high school days in New Bern, NC that football was more than a pastime for Hughes. By the time he graduated, he was All-State and the second-ranked player in North Carolina. This was mostly due to his do-it-all skill set. Hughes played quarterback for three years, as well as receiver and punter for two of them. His sophomore season was the only one he spent as a defensive back.

Collegiate Vagabond

Initially, Hughes committed to the University of North Carolina. He would play a reserve role for 11 games to little fanfare before being suspended for violating team rules. This is where the rumblings of off-field issues originated, which may or may not cause him to drop come draft day.

After what was only described as a “fraternity incident” caused him to move on, Hughes ended up at Garden City Community College. It was obvious right away that this young man was not among his peers. Essentially a great white shark in a small pond, Hughes had no problems reaching All-American status.

His 47 tackles, two interceptions, six pass breakups, and three return touchdowns caught the attention of Central Florida coach Scott Frost. He was able to recruit Hughes to the Knights for what would be an undefeated season in 2017.

Division One Starter

The main knock on Hughes is his lack of experience versus top-level talent. It’s great to excel at a community college, but it isn’t much of a barometer for professional potential. The only true reference evaluators have is the 12 games Hughes started at the University of Central Florida. Where a pessimist sees a minimal sample size, an optimist may see some impressive tape. After all, he did manage an All-American Athletic Conference campaign.

The 4.53-second 40-yard dash Mike Hughes clocked at the combine does not adequately reflect how fast he is on the gridiron. This man is all over the field making plays and running people down. He has the pure speed to erase a mistake in coverage and soft enough hands that he doesn’t necessarily need both to take the ball away.

The kick returns are must-see television. Hughes has the potential to be a real difference maker on special teams. Blazing acceleration out of his cuts paired with field vision allows Hughes to turn a mere crease into an unfair foot race to six points whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Strengths

  • physical in press coverage to disrupt receivers at the release point;
  • a violent jammer who can actually stop his man cold at the line;
  • fast enough to cover NFL pass-catchers and even make up lost ground;
  • tracks and catches the ball like a receiver;
  • solid kick returner with the speed, vision, and moves to score;
  • plays the inside slant and quick routes effectively.

Weaknesses

  • limited reps as a starter versus big-time pass catchers;
  • lacks height and tends to get high pointed by big body receivers;
  • plays a bit too tall on the backpedal leading to a slower change of direction;
  • mirror and match footwork needs to be refined;
  • tackling needs some work;
  • will likely struggle initially to recognize routes at the next level due to lack of experience.

NFL Comparison: Bradley Roby

Teams With Need at Position: Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks

Projection: Round two

Bottom Line

Hughes is a project. He has the raw talent to be an NFL starter, but that will take time, experience, and proper coaching.

One NFC scout wishes he had stayed in the NCAA just one more season. “I don’t see him as a one”, the unnamed scout remarked, “but he could have been with another year.”

Ideally, he would find himself on a team with an established veteran who could mentor and bring him along. His landing spot will have a profound effect on what sort of pro he becomes. Perhaps another season of college ball would have been the answer, but these things are so uncertain it’s impossible to begrudge him for making the jump.

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